Browsed by
Category: Flowers and Plants

Annual, perennial and interesting flowers with advice on culture, information, tips and recommended varieties

Growing Mesembryanthemum

Growing Mesembryanthemum


Description of Mesembryanthemum criniflorum

  • Often called the Livingstone daisy, Fig Marigold or the Ice Plant.
  • The leaves are juicy & succulent with a furry texture.
  • Flowers are single in a wide range of gaudy colours from white through shocking pink to orange.
  • Many flowers have light coloured centres and there are now more self colour seed packets available.
  • Plants are from the Aizoaceae family that contains a130 genera and over 1200 species that also includes Lithops

Cultivation Tips for Mesembryanthemum criniflorum

  • Sow seed February to April at 60-70F in John Innes Seed Compost.
  • Sow on surface of compost and gently firm down compost. Keep soil damp but not wet. Do not exclude light which helps germination.
  • Sealing in a polythene bag after sowing is also helpful. Germination usually takes 15-21 days.
  • When seedlings are large enough to handle, transplant and grow on in cooler conditions for 10-15 days before planting out in a sunny frost free spot on light well drained soil.
  • Plants are low growing and spread 6-10″.
  • Ideal for poor soil conditions in full sun.
  • Flowers remain shut in dull weather

Read More Read More

Drinks Industry without Farmers and Gardeners

Drinks Industry without Farmers and Gardeners

”3 Hearty Cheers for Gardener’s Drinks”

Update to post 7 Feb 2011

More Garden Drinks That Cheer

  • How could I miss my favourite home grown alcoholic beverage Cider. I am in too much hurry to wait for home brewed cider and buy copious quantities made from UK grown apples.
  • Following that theme there is numerous fermented fruit and garden produce to make home made wine and tisanes.
  • Plum brandy, Potato potcheen and other distilled liqueurs owe there existence to garden produce
  • Lastly but not least, hops and malted barley make a fine drink when combined with yeast.

”1. Tea – Camellia sinensis

A native of China, tea leaves  were delivered around the world in Clipper ships, created the furore at the Boston Tea Party during the American war of independence and still provides badly paid work for workers in India, Sri Lanka, Kenya and China.

The small trees have been grown in China for over 4000 years. They are  generally pruned to a low bush to encourage more bud and leaf thus making picking easier. It is the young leaves and buds that are used to make the tea. Black tea, Green tea, Oolong and even White tea are made from the same plant, the difference is in the oxidisation during drying.

Camellia sinesis is related to our floral camellias but it is the leaves not the flowers that they are grown for. The plants grow and produce well even up to 1500 meters in the Himalayan foothills and mountains of south east Asia.

Char ladies made tea for umpteen tea breaks and many a soldier had his Chai to drink from a metal cup. That is nothing to the reverence of the Tea ceremony of Japan and China

2. Coffee  – Coffea arabica or robusta

Of 90 different species of coffee plant arabica is the most economically important accounting for 70% of world coffee production. Originally from Yemen and Ethiopia the plant was therefore named arabica by Linneaus in 1753.

Coffee trees produce red or purple fruits called “cherries” that contain two seeds, the so-called “coffee beans”. These seeds are then roasted and ground to make our Latte, Americano or Espressos. Brazil, Columbia and Java are now large producers of coffee on trees that can continue to produce for 50 years.

The first coffee houses were recognised as such in Venice in the 17th century but had previously operated in Turkey and Arabia as meeting venues. With the advent of the Starbucks this institution and coffee consumption has gone global.

A shame the producing countries and millions of subsistence farmers do not seem to get a fair share of the financial gains.

3. Grape – Vitis vinifera

Vitis grow on vines or Liana and the fruit is known as a grape. The berries ripen dark purple to blackish from a small, pale wax bloom. In wine making the length of time the skin is left with the juice will dictate the colour.

The red skin contains the tannins and oxidising chemicals that make good red wine. There are 60 species of Vitis in cultivation and whilst the Northern hemisphere is the origin there are now good vineyards in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and South America.

Vitis vinifera has been dated to over 130 million years ago with the human relationship to the plant dating from the Neolithic period. Ancient Egyptians ate grapes, made wine and recorded vines in hieroglyphics.The Greeks brought wine to the western world and who can forget images of Roman orgies where wine and grapes took their part.

‘And Noah he often said to his wife when he sat down to dine,
‘I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine’.

The only one of the liquid triumvirate that will grow in the UK is the grape although Cornwall may boast an occasional Camelia senesis”

The Homemade Cidermaking Bible: [3 IN 1] From Apples to Excellence | Mastering the Art of Home Cider Making with Professional Tips and Techniques link

Iris foetidissima Stinker For Valentines Day

Iris foetidissima Stinker For Valentines Day

This is not the Iris for Saint Valentines Day! There are sweeter smelling plants but the seed heads of Iris foetidissima are a striking orange at the end of the season when there is less colour in the garden. Before opening the seed heads swell to a bulbous green head that cracks open to reveal masses of red, orange or yellow berries that the birds seem to leave alone of long periods well into winter.

The sword like leaves are very tough and this iris can thrive on neglect. Eventually clumps need chopping down as the centre becomes congested. Dead leaves need tidying but this Herbaceous UK native is evergreen.

Limniris – Stinking Iris Series

  • Plants with strong smells are often using the aroma to attract pollinators.
  • What is unpleasant to some people can be OK to others.
  • Iris foetidissima citrina is a pale yellow and brown flowering form
  • This is the only Iris that can be recommended for dry shade even under a tree.

Knock Knock?

  • Who is there
  • Iris
  • Iris who
  • Irish stew in the name of the law
Iris From Bulbs

Iris From Bulbs

For that ‘light bulb moment’ consider the two main species of Iris that will grow from bulbs. Bulbs are generally cheap and easy to grow. The bulbs are often packed in 10’s or 50’s so you can grow a group of Iris together or grow extra for cutting.
The main sorts are Iris reticulata and Dutch Iris but there are also some other bulb species to look out for.

Iris reticulata

Iris reticulata

  • The Iris bulbs growing in the photo above are a series of low growing, early spring flowering plants named after people like George, Natasha, Joyce, Gordon and Pauline.
  • Iris reticulata are early flowering Iris that usually appearing from late winter to early spring. The blooms vary from pale blue to deep violet with central yellow splashes down the middle of each petal.
  • These Iris are useful for growing from bulbs in pots or in rockeries.
  • Plants are low growing at around 6 inches tall.

Dutch Iris

  • Dutch Iris flower a bit later, than reticulata bulbs, in early June.
  • Dutch Iris are winter hardy and can also be grown in a cool greenhouse for cutting
  • The flowers are on strong stems 20-32 inches tall.
  • Oriental beauty is one of my favourite varieties shown below
  • Cream Beauty, Royal Yellow and White Excelsior are varieties that avoid the natural Iris colours of purple and blue.
  • Plant Dutch Iris bulbs every 3-6 inches or dig a wider hole and put 3 bulbs in together. Cover with 3″ of soil.

June garden 040 Iris reticulata

Tips for Growing Iris from Bulbs

  • The preferred method is to plant the bulbs in October 5-10cm (2-4in) apart at twice their own depth in well-drained, moderately fertile soil in sun or partial shade.
  • Most types of soil will suffice for one year for these bulbs. The flowers are already inside the bulb waiting to escape so they are almost foolproof in the first year.
  • Divide congested groups July to September after the narrow leaves have died down.
  • Try growing some bulbs indoors for early flowering by forcing. This is what florists do with Dutch Iris varieties.
  • Iris will grow well in pots or containers but if you want them to flower successfully next year they need a deep 8 inche root run to build up strength .
  • The dark blue goes well with snowdrops and they flower at about the same time.
  • Iris look good in rockeries and the top of walls.

June garden 038 Iris reticulata

Growing Other Iris Variety from Bulbs

  • Mixed bulb packs can give you a good show but look for Iris reticulata J S Dyt reddish purple or Natasha white with green veins and a yellow blotch.
  • Iris danflordiae flowers bright yellow 4″ tall.
  • Iris Histroides ‘George’ flowers are a plum purple and Katherine Hodgkin light blue with yellow crests and dark spots both 6″ tall.
  • Iris bucharia grow about a foot tall in yellow and white.
  • Iris lactifolia are ofter called the English Iris naturalise quite well

Iris joker

Useful Links
British Iris Society over 100 years old and going strong

Iris B

George Iris

Dutch Iris or Iris reticulata are small bulbs for pots or rockeries.
Flag Iris are big and blousy and grow from Rhizomes.
These pictures of different Iris are grown from bulbs.

Iris B

The reticulata group produce narrow, triangular leaves and a single, slender bloom per bulb.
Flowers are principally in shades of blue and purple, often with an attractively contrasting orange or yellow mark at the top of the fall.
Iris histrioides ‘George’ is proving to be a good Iris shown top.

Iris Frans Hals

Iris Franz Hals above or you could try the unusual Iris ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ below. Its exotic colouring of cream overlaid with a blend of light yellow and greeny-blue comes from its parents.

Iris joker

One of the earliest flowering bulbs is this Iris Reticulata. It makes a lovely rockery bulb. It is low growing, though the flowers are as beautiful as anything you might see in summer. The foliage is also delicate and attractive.

The flower can vary in colour from this deep purple to yellow like below.

Tips for Growing Iris Reticulata

Plant in autumn at a depth of *2 or *2.5 the bulb height. They aren’t too fussy, though a good drained soil helps. To make the most of the flowers, try planting with a layer of light coloured gravel. This helps prevent soil splashing the flowers and also shows off the dark coloured flowers better.

These photos were taken at St John’s College Oxford on 17th February. They are in a rockery above ground level, which helps you to appreciate their beauty.


We are covered in snow and the small local roads are blocked. At least the snow is providing a blanket for the early spring bulbs to continue developing. One of my favouirite blooms is that of the Iris in this case grown from a bulb. Later on the rhizomas varieties will also add colour to the garden but in the meantime I eagerly anticipate the arrival of my Iris.


The outer petals are called the falls and on some varieties the ‘beard’ shows here with small hairs. The upright part are the ‘Standard’ which are most striking on Flag Iris.

One of the earliest flowering bulbs is this Iris Reticulata. It makes a lovely rockery bulb. It is low growing, though the flowers are as beautiful as anything you might see in summer. The foliage is also delicate and attractive.

The flower can vary in colour from this deep purple to yellow like below.

Read More Read More

Iris is the Rainbow Goddess

Iris is the Rainbow Goddess

Iris reticulata

Iris flowers are named after the Greek Goddess of the rainbow, which is appropriate for their extensive range of colours.

There are many different varieties of Iris The most common is the German Bearded Iris’ which include a range of different cultivatars.

  • Provided they are grown in a suitable location, Iris provide a good low maintenance display.
  • The main thing is to ensure the soil has good drainage. If the bulbs become waterlogged there is a risk of the bulb rotting. (apart from the varieties which are grown on pond edges.
  • Iris enjoy full sun or partial sun.
  • The Iriz rhizomes should be planted at or just above soil level.
  • Iris bulb varieties should be planted 2-3 times the depth of the bulb size.
  • I. unguicularis is a good variety for offering flowers in early winter when flowers are rare. These need a sheltered, sunny and free draining spot.

Read More Read More

Stonking Good Blue Flowers

Stonking Good Blue Flowers


True blue flowers are hard to find in many gardens although Purple, Lavender, Lilac, Mauve and Violet exist in many shades. Since there are no true blue Roses, Peonies, Dahlias, Daffodils or even Tulips these showy flowers are out. So if you find a good strong blue then stick to it and use it with great abandon.

This Delphinium was in our garden 20 years ago when we arrived and it has given great service. Unlike my spade that has had 2 new blades and 6 new handles the Delphinium is the original stock. Give or take an occassional cutting it is as new each summer with its tall spires of the strongest, clearest blue you could desire.

Good blue plants include Ceanothus impressus, Corydalis flexuosa and the Gentians. In bulbs there are blue Muscari, Chionodoxa  and the Agapanthus. Hydrangea macrophylla Blue Wave is one of the bluer hydrangea but most plants labeled or called blue are pale imitations.

If your favouirite plant is missing from this list let me know.

Light blue variety of Ceanouthus. There are some good dark blue varieties.



Gentiana The dark blue to indigo flowering Gentian.

Campanula Family for the Rockery

Campanula Family for the Rockery

One of the smaller varieties of Campanula should ring a bell for rockery or alpine gardeners. Canterbury Bells have been grown in the UK since the middle ages. The bell shape is created by a cup shaped flower with the edges divided in strips usually creating 5 petals


The bell flowers of Campanula come in many sizes upto 15 foot tall in the case of Campanula pyramidalis grown as a pot plant. The smaller low growing plants are more suitable for the Rockery or Alpine garden. The above example is growing in the space at the top of a low retaining wall and has been there very happily for at least 20 years. These varieties love good drainage.

Campanula Facts and Tips

  • The smallest Campanulas hug the ground and throw up flower stalks only a couple of inches. Campanula censia, C. excisa, C. pulla and C. Pusilla fit this category.
  • Campanula gargancia despite its name and C. rupestris have clusters of tiny star flowers that hug the ground.
  • All the miniature kinds of Campanula are at home in cool, semi-shaded nooks in the lower levels of the rockery.
  • Still diminutive in stature Campanula allioni or C. carpathica have larger saucer shaped flowers upto one foot tall.
  • Camapanula rotundifolia has blue, white or double forms.
  • Tufted and prostrate forms dived with ease in September. Those with errect stems need to be grown from cuttings.
  • Campanula barbata is biennial but the low growing C. aucheri is perennial and both have a long tap root that protects them from bad weather conditions.

Book Cover

‘More than 200 Campanula species and hybrids are described, and specialists and collectors will delight in the descriptions of rare and little-documented plants’
Dwarf Campanula by Graham Nichols  

Look out for seed of your chosen varieties at  special shows or from the Alpine society membership scheme.

Read Growing Campanula and cockleshells on Gardening Tips

Leeks and Pot Leeks

Leeks and Pot Leeks

Starter Tips

  • Grow culinary leeks in ground with well rotted compost that hasn’t cropped leeks for the past 3 years.
  • Sow autumn and winter varieties in deep pots during late March or April
  • Transplant in June-July so about two thirds of the plant is buried increasing the length of blanching.
  • For average sized leeks plant  6 inches apart in rows a foot apart.
  • Nitrogen fertiliser in autumn helps winter growth
  • Grow Pot Leeks for competitions prevalent in the North East of England.


I first went to a Leek show in the North East one September about 40 years ago and the Pot Leeks on show were really something to behold.
It is an art, a science and a bit of black magic that helps create a show stopper in this region renown for its prize leeks.
Pot leek exhibition standards require a blanch of up to 6inch which can give a circumference of 28″. Intermediates are up to 14″ blanched length and Long leeks are anything in excess of this.                                                                                                           For eating purposes, size is much less important than flavour. We will  concentrate on normal garden culture for flavour.

Leek flags

Tips on starting to grow Leeks

  • Seeds can be sown in Mid march until June as the plants like a long growing season.
  • Set out the plants at the end of May.
  • A quick and easy start can be made by buying seedlings from a nursery or market stall.
  • Read More Read More

Sunflowers for Display and Cutting

Sunflowers for Display and Cutting

Sunflowers look great in a vase but are heavy drinkers and need conditioning in a dark place overnight after cutting.

Valentine Sunflower

I have tended to drift away from growing Sunflowers but now I think my reasons may not be correct.
I tended to grow tall varieties which produce one or few flowers. They were showy but needed support from the wind in our northern hills.
The knew the space was better dedicated to other plants and the only sunflowers that grew this year were self sown from our bird feeders (and the flowers were small weedy efforts that I should have pulled up).

North Carolina University Sunflower trials

Read More Read More